After nearly 24 hours of confusion and refusing to disclose details about a large RCMP presence throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality, the Mounties say their actions on Wednesday were part of a large investigation into organized crime and drugs in the province.
Police say officers searched 13 sites across the Halifax Regional Municipality as part of the investigation. Searches continued on Thursday with RCMP units spotted in Dartmouth and Upper Hammonds Plains.
RCMP say a number of people have been arrested and remain in custody, but will not reveal how many as it’s still unclear who will face charges.
“Once all the information is obtained, we’ll proceed with the charges, make sure we have all the evidence gathered, all the information we need for the investigation,” said spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau in an interview.
A video shared widely on social media Wednesday showed multiple black SUVs and other vehicles sporting police lights in a high-speed chase Wednesday afternoon.
The vehicles are shown driving onto the grass, across multiple lanes of traffic on the busy Joseph Howe Drive during rush hour, and onto Elliott Street, a dead-end road below the Highway 102 off-ramp. Croteau called it an attempted “traffic stop.”
Another video shows at least one man being arrested near a vehicle that had heavy damage to the driver’s side door.
Police officers were shown to be wearing tactical gear and carrying rifles.
“It was the resources that we used to ensure officer and the public safety,” said Croteau, explaining the heavy gear and weaponry.
Elliott Street resident Sharon Simpson, who witnessed the event’s from her home, called it a “terrifying” sight.
“I’ll be honest, it was terrifying. It was not something you expect to see on a dead end street with seven houses,” she told Global News.
“At first I thought, are they filming a movie? But I didn’t see any movie cameras, but it was real, and it took a minute to process that to be honest.”
RCMP initially refused to provide even basic details on the incident, beyond saying there was an ongoing investigation and that “there is no risk to public safety.”
Chelsea Fougere, who also lives on Elliott Street, said the neighbourhood is lucky no one was harmed. She first looked out the living room window after hearing a “bang,” shortly after 3 p.m.
“I just so happened to look out and saw two or three cars in mid air and they land right in front of our house at a very high speed… They just rammed right into the power pole, thank God it was a power pole and not a house.”
Halifax Regional Police distanced themselves from the incidents in a statement issued late on Wednesday.
“We have received calls from citizens and media about police presence in a number of communities in our jurisdiction. We’d like to confirm that this deployment is not an HRP operation,” a statement from Halifax Regional Police read on Wednesday.
Police went even a step further on Thursday, saying that only select Halifax police officials were made aware of the ongoing investigation.
“As can often be the case with sensitive federal investigations and operations, HRP were not provided any specific details or locations within our jurisdiction.”
It was only once the operation began that the “specific nature” and “public impact” of the investigation became apparent to the Halifax police.
Halifax police partners with the RCMP on joint investigations but still operates independently.
The Mounties do not normally operate in the Halifax peninsula or in Dartmouth as those areas are normally covered by Halifax police.
RCMP say no charges have been laid at this time and their investigation continues.
They have seized what is believed to be cocaine and other drugs as well as an unspecified number of firearms.